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Dvar Torah Nitzavim 2022

Dvar Torah Nitzavim 2022

 Rabbi  dr Barbara Borts As you cannot help but know, Queen Elizabeth II died earlier this month. I’m not a monarchist – I was raised in that most republican of all countries, the USA, and when I became a Brit and was offered the choice of an oath or affirmation of allegiance, I choose the latter. I know many people avoided becoming naturalised here because they did not want to be subjects instead of citizens. Nevertheless, I find it astonishing that she began her reign in the year of my birth, and I admit to some teary eyes watching the various films about her during the week of her mourning. Deuteronomy is the textual equivalent of those films,  the history of Moses and his service to the people, his highs and lows, leading us to Nitzavim, Vayeilekh, and Haazinu, his death and the public mourning thereof. And a whisper about the future – the king is dead, long live the king.` Moses enters our story in a startling manner, demonstrating great courage when, despite being one of the royals and therefore wealthy and privileged, he stands up for slaves and the injustice of their mistreatment. He has a mystical encounter with God, and the intimations of his life’s ‎mission, which he humbly attempts to decline, then bravely accepts. He -  what is the expression people are so fond of – speaks truth to power on behalf of the suffering Israelites, to persuade Pharoah to let them go, and then turns his work towards persuading the people to free themselves from servile attitudes and commit themselves to God and become a holy people. His life, as we read, was often a nightmare. He was both administrative and legislative leader all in one, a go-between for the people and God, a therapist, helping to mediate between the fear, despair and rank superficiality of the people, and he bore the awesome responsibility of meeting God ponim el ponim, face to face.  No descriptions of him playing with dogs, or having a laugh with a friend. Even his family proved difficult to manage. After all of what he endured to get to the edge of the wilderness, why was he not allowed to lead them into the land? The usual explanation was that it was because he lost his temper with the people and disobeyed God in the process, at the waters of merivah, but I wonder if it is simpler than that. New historical circumstances require different leadership skills and refreshed perspectives. Just as the queen served through the times of war and empire, so Moses served through the Exodus and the Revelation. For the sake of the future, Moses needed to move aside for the people to assume responsibility for themselves, and for their relationship with God, as they proclaimed there again at the threshold of their entry,  and with Joshua, neither prophet nor teacher, new potential arose for the people. I would assert something similar with regard to the queen. I waded into a bit of controversy when I posted on Facebook that, although I acknowledged that Elizabeth had ‘queened’ extremely well, was an admirable and fine leader, I thought this was an opportune time to lay monarchy to rest, playing my role as  the prophet  Samuel,  warning against the establishment of a monarchy. Many commented,  insisting that a nation could either have a monarch, or a president, the spoken and unspoken fear that ‘President’ inevitably brings Trump. The monarchy was essential to prevent that, they maintained.  And there it was – people want leaders, no, they want superheroes, stars, sporting greats, messiahs, and what Rabbi Jack Bloom called Symbolic Exemplars, leaders who are experienced as, treated as, and expected to act as substitutes for Jewish tradition, and even for God. Many people bestow upon an idealised ‘other’ the power to make sense of life, to locate clarity, stability, and answers within that ‘one’  and thereby help us to understand a world that is often bewildering.  As my friend Rabbi Richie Address wrote to me, “We fear the knowledge that we are alone, and that much of what we will make ‎of life rests within our hands‎."  Anything rather than face full on the fundamental questions about how to find meaning in life because, and I believe this strongly, there is no a priori meaning, just that which we forge and create. And it is hard work. And it can be painful and frightening. So what about Moses, as we visit him on the precipice of his own death? Moses’s vision was similar to that of the queen, in that it came with the imprimatur of divine calling, hers inherited, his bestowed, neither democratically ‘elected’. Both were modest, both avowedly religious. Both were very old. And both worked hard until the day they died. Moses was given a  mission – to bring the people out of Egypt and to Sinai, to accept a covenant with God. And from there, to lead them to the land promised them. Here in Nitzavim, he assembles the people and asks them to reaffirm their ‎covenant with God, which they do – the verb ‘nitzav’’ means ‘to position ‎oneself,’ an active decision to place oneself somewhere rather than passively simply being there. Then Moses dies, and as Torah tells us, his burial spot is unknown, nor we do not mention him in ‎the Haggadah at Pesach, all of which to ensure we do not place human beings, however worthy, at the centre of our worship.  Not even Moses! And who ‎‎better than ‎you in Poland to understand the dangers of placing a human being at ‎the centre ‎‎of a nation ‎‎– we only need to look at Putin, or back further, to Hitler, ‎to ‎‎understand the dark flipside of charismatic leadership.‎ ‎ We are told concerning the Queen that she united the nation and inspired people, but did she? Could she even have done so? She may have been admired and loved,  ‎‎but the UK  is a nation on the ‎precipice of disaster, torn in half by the Brexit vote, and by ‎‎schisms between ‎North, where I live, and South. Scotland may still leave, ‎‎Northern Ireland is in ‎turmoil once more, again due to issues with Brexit. There is ‎‎rampant ‎xenophobia, many Polish people bearing the brunt of this. And so on. Did Moses succeed? Let’s look at the  ‎Jewish people. Are we yet unified within our religious world, dedicated to the ‎highest of values? I wish we were, but we definitely are not. Given all of this, I question the core idea that we need inspiration from symbolic exemplars, queens, or even prophets.  The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote, "At the end of his life, Moses recognized one great failure of his leadership. He ‎had taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but he hadn’t taken Egypt out of the ‎Israelites. He had changed his people’s fate, but he hadn’t changed their ‎character... So long as there is a Moses ‎performing miracles, the people do not have to accept responsibility for ‎themselves…”[1] This is the excruciating task of the HH days ahead, to accept responsibility for themselves. There are limits to that, as I will discuss on Rosh Hashanah. But that seems to be Moses’s fervent wish, as he ends his life: ‎‘It is not in heaven, ‎it is in your mouth to do it, choose life.” There is an oft-quoted midrash, whose punchline is, when you appear in olem habo, the world to come, they will not ask you why were you not Moses, but rather, why were you not yourself. As I wrote this, I became rather more agnostic about that the idea of an inspirational figurehead. I read another compelling passage by Jonathan Sachs, where he also argues for the opposite. He stated, “There is a danger in a religion like Judaism, with so many clear cut rules … that we may forget that there are areas of life which have no rules, only role models, but which  are no less religiously significant for that...There are text books and there are text people. We learn virtue less by formal instruction than by finding virtuous people and observing how they live. Sometimes we make a difference less by what we do than by what we are."[2]  And I thought, perhaps those who earned their prominence, a Marek Edelman, or a David Attenborough, are worthy of emulation. The task is still the same and whether motivated by a Moses or a Queen Elizabeth, an Edelman or an Attenborough, or through ones own religious experience, or in reading an inspiring text, it is ultimately up to the individual to accept responsibility for what they do in life and situate that inside of themselves, which is the message of these days of repentance. Otherwise it is still too easy to wave a flag and then vote to keep immigrants out, or to carefully examine ones food, but then insult another person. It is set before you today… [1] Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks [2] Ibid. To Heal a Fractured World. P.239      
Wells and World Cup stadiums
Noach
The position of man in the universe
Who will you invite to your Sukkah?
Dvar Torah Nitzavim 2022
Nitzavim
Shoftim
Hot-button issues in performing Jewish music in Poland
Va’etchanan
Matot-Masei
Pinchas
The ritual of accepting uncertainty
Sh’lach
Judaism and booze
Bechukotai
Parashat Kdoshim
Acharei Mot
Thoughts on Pesach 5782
Neal Brostoff: Polish Jewish Art Music
Shemini
Eliyana Adler „Survival on the Margins”
Lukasz Krzyzanowski – Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return To A Postwar City
Vayakhel
Parashat Ki Tisa
Tetzaveh
Mishpatim
Parashat Yitro
Beshalach
Miketz
Parsha Vayeshev – פרשת וישב
Vayishlach
The Honey and The Sting
Among the Remnants
Toledot
Chajej Sara (Bereszit 23:1 – 25:18)
Thoughts on Parashat Vayera
History on Trial & Historians Tested – Can Governments Re-write History?
Technology and Upbringing
Ki Tavo
Ki Teitzei
Shoftim
Barry Cohen’s Opening the Drawer: The Hidden Identities of Polish Jews – webinar
Ekev
Matot-Massei
Parashat Pinchas
Stargazer staring at Israel
The Roving Eye and the Wandering Heart
To Share the Sparks of Divine Wisdom
On “moral superiority”
Bemidbar
Behar-Bechukotai
Kedoshim tihiyu – You shall be holy!
To connect people with different visions of life
Parashat Beshalach
Ritual memory – the beauty of Judaism
Truth vs Peace
Miketz
VAYESHEV
Vayetze
Toldot
Chayei Sarah
Vayera
Fulfillment of God’s Promise is Accompanied by… Laughter
What to Do to Live Happily Ever After
SIMCHAT TORAH 5781
Transience as a Blessing
Nitzavim-Vayelech
Menachem Mirski 10 przykazań – część 3 wykład wideo
W bramach miesiąca ELUL wykład wideo
10 przykazań cz1 – wykład wideo
TRZY KSIĘGI OTWIERA SIĘ W ROSZ HA-SZANA – wykład wideo
EKEV
TU BE-AW -OD ŻAŁOBY DO MIŁOŚCI
Devarim
SMAK TORY
Pinchas
LUD TWÓJ LUD MÓJ A BÓG TWÓJ – BÓG MÓJ
Balak
KOBIETY W MYKWIE
Pride Month Sermon
OD TEMPLU DO BEITU -wykład wideo
BLISKI …WSZYSTKIM, KTÓRZY GO WZYWAJĄ
For Shavuot
Rozważania o święcie Szawuot
Bamidbar
Introduction to Jewish Law Rabin Alan Iser [ENG]
SŁOŃCE WSCHODZI I SŁOŃCE ZACHODZI – Kalendarz żydowski
EMOR
Acharei Mot
YOM HAZIKARON AND YOM HA’ATZMA’UT
TAJEMNICE KADISZU
Shemini
CO ŁĄCZY PIEŚŃ NAD PIEŚNIAMI ZE ŚWIĘTEM PESACH?
SHABBAT CHOL HAMO’ED
PUBLICZNA MODLITWA W TRUDNYM CZASIE
Vayikra
Terumah
Yitro
BESHALLACH
VAYECHI
Vayigash
CHANUKAH
Vayeshev
VAYESHEV
Vayera.
NOACH
Too Big, It Must Fail
CHOL HAMOED SUKOT
Haazinu
Ki Tetzei
Chazon
Matot-Massei
Pinchas
Pinchas
KORACH
Force of habit, passivity, fear and their consequences
The King and his Son. Thoughts on Parashat Naso
On Jewish Unity and Diversity. Thoughts on Parasha Bamidbar
Whom Can We Trust?
Has the Time Come For a Jubilee Year?
EMOR
Once Again About the Needy
PESSACH  2019
Ideological wars and social unrest: what can we do about them?
The World Between Order and Chaos
TZAV
Democracy and Responsibility. Thoughts on Parasha Vajikra.
What’s the Role of Religion?
TETZAVEH
What does the Tabernacle symbolize?
A Good Example Shows the Way
Chaos and hate – our outer and inner enemy
Freedom Once Gained Must Never Be Given Up
Parashat Vayera
One Person Can Change the History of the Entire World
Divine Actions Viewed as the Sum of Human Actions
Turning point. Thoughts on the parashat Miketz
Enslaved in Parental Lack of Attention and Brotherly Jealousy
Wrestling in the night
To lie or not to lie? Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze
Infertility – A Shared Problem
External and Internal Beauty.
Local Government vs Sodom
LECH LECHA
The meaning of life. Thoughts on parashat Lech Lecha.
Trying Our Best – Just Like Noah Did
Killing Anger. Thoughts on Parashat Bereshit.
An Ephemeral Booth or a Lasting Legacy? How Should We View Our Lives?
SUKKOT
Is Progress Actually Always Progress? Thoughts on Parashat Haazinu.
YOM KIPPUR 2018 JONAH
KOL NIDRE
Nabożeństwo Jom Kipur | Yom Kippur Prayer 2018
Standing Before the Heavenly Court
ROSH HASHANAH MORNING
EREV ROSH HASHANAH
To love is to see potential. Thoughts on Parashat Nitzavim
Time to be grateful [Ki Tavo]
Elul – the Month of Judgment
Good fortune and justice. Thoughts on Parashat Ree.
SHABBAT EKEV
Who will hear my Shma?
The role of women in traditional Judaism. Reflection on parashat Pinchas.
Thoughts on Parashat Bamidbar
What Kind of Society is “Without Blemish”?
Pesach: Matzah, Spring and Freedom
Vayakhel and Pekudei – Candles, Blessing, Shabbat!
Cindy Paley Poland Tour 2017
Concert Neal Brostoff&Marcin Król – Hebrew Melodies